There were smiles in England’s dressing room at Tea on the third day’s play of the first Test in Galle that had little to do with the match situation. Moeen Ali entered England’s bio-bubble after clearing two COVID tests and joined his teammates 13 days after touching down in Sri Lanka.
The 33-year-old all-rounder tested positive for Covid-19 with mild symptoms upon arrival and was isolated from the rest of the touring party. He was originally expected to be in quarantine for 10 days, but that period was extended by three days following the Sri Lankan government’s reservations over the new UK strain of the virus. Given his lack of match practice, Moeen is unlikely to play even in the second Test but his presence in the camp was a positive reinforcement for a team facing an arduous ten weeks on the road in the sub-continent.
“It’s great to have Mo back,” said Sam Curran after stumps on Day 3. “When we walked into the changing room [at tea] we saw Mo and there were smiles on everyone’s faces. He’s obviously had a really tough couple of weeks and no one wants to get into the situation he was in. Thankfully he got through that OK. We’re all really excited to have him back in the group to play cricket again, because we all know what an awesome player he is, and to be around.
“The guys are really happy. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anyone else, because no one wants to have players leaving the group and isolating for a couple of weeks.”
Moeen’s absence was particularly felt on a third day Galle wicket that flattened out a touch and saw Sri Lanka’s batsmen offer dogged resistance. Dom Bess and jack Leach’s rustiness shone through as England struggled to build any kind of pressure.
“Look at our spinners and some of the seamers as well – no one’s really played much cricket. You’d expect a bit of rustiness. The buildup was what it was. We had no complaints – [Joe] Rooty was very clear that we needed to hit the ground running which we luckily did on day one.”